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A Nudge In the Right Direction

by SG World
October 18, 2017

Nudge theory has been in the news this month following the announcement of Richard Thaler as this year’s Nobel prize winner in Economics. Thaler is a leading proponent of Nudge theory; his book Nudge was one of the first to outline how tiny prompts can alter our behaviour. In the HSE’s annual September conference, Martin Friar, HSE Deputy Director (Behavioural Insight and Service Design), described the work of the HSE’s insight programme in examining how different groups respond to health and safety messages and “developing the right interventions using that knowledge”. Mentioning “nudge theory”, which proposes that small suggestions and positive reinforcement can change behaviour, he added that “behavioural intention doesn’t always follow through to behavioural action”.
If you’re a man you may have been “nudged” at a urinal. First introduced at Schiphol airport in 1999, the simple idea was to add an image of a fly in the urinal bowl thus encouraging men to take aim and so reduce unwelcome splashes by 80%.
Urinal
Another element of nudge behaviour is playing on our susceptibility to "social norming" - we think if others are doing it they must have a good reason. This was demonstrated in an experiment looking at towel use in hotels. Guests were encouraged to re-use their towels with two sets of signs:

  • HELP SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT. You can show your respect for nature and help save the environment by reusing your towels during your stay.
  • JOIN YOUR FELLOW GUESTS IN HELPING TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT. Almost 75% of guests who are asked to participate in our new resource-saving program help by using their towels more than once. You can join your fellow guests in this program to help save the environment by reusing your towels during your stay.

They found that guests with the social norm sign that mentioned fellow guests reused their towels at a significantly higher rate than those with the standard sign.

SG World’s product range works in a number of ways – it provides a framework which guides and directs people’s safety behaviour. Adopting our solutions demonstrates the a commitment to incorporate safe working into company cultural norms. Additionally our BSafe range provides a constant stream of small visual nudges designed to alter working behaviours.

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